I believe it may be one of the best articles or reviews done so far on the book – author Prem Panicker interviewed me extensively over several weeks, which resulted in a magazine feature that is warm and thoughtful, filled with humanity and care for these kids. Prem’s compassionate writing style tells the stories of the kids and the book, with a sidebar featuring Sumitra, the miracle baby; and another sidebar about my journey to India with daughter Chandler.
I do hope that you will check it out, and pass it on to whomever might be at all interested:
Today writer Mara Gorman features a book review of The Weight of Silence on her site, The Mother of all Trips, geared toward traveling with children. Mara writes the review for her “Mondays are for Dreaming” segment – and she has pledged to donate $5 to the Miracle Foundation for every comment posted on the article (up to $250)!!
So please – go to The Mother of All Trips today and read the review, and post a comment – and help empower these children with a simple click of the mouse! Mara writes, “The strength of the book is that even as she reveals her own internal struggles with despair, the overwhelming message is one of hope. By offering many concrete examples of how individuals can make a difference, Seale inspires her readers to look the problem square in the eyes and bring whatever resources they have to bear, just as she herself has done.”
“Therefore, as a tribute to the faith and optimism shown within the pages of The Weight of Silence, I’d like to make my own small contribution to the cause. For every comment that is made on this post I will donate 5 dollars to the Miracle Foundation, up to a total sum of $250. It’s a drop in the bucket, I know, but one thing this book has shown me is that small gestures do make a difference. As Seale says, quoting Mother Teresa, ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.’”
In other recent coverage, The Weight of Silence has been reviewed on AOL’s Gadling – read it here. Except for being called a yuppie (ugh!), it’s a nice review. Writer Sean McLachlan says, “Besides her personal story, two things really set this book apart from the ‘see the horrible things happening in the Third World’ genre. Firstly, it takes a mostly positive spin. While Seale doesn’t flinch from the uglier side of Indian life, she focuses on the children’s resilience and dreams. They don’t come off as poor victims waiting for rich peoples’ help. Her main point is that these kids aren’t in need of handouts, but the basic human right of a childhood.
The second strong point is that the book is well grounded in fact, skillfully interwoven with the narrative so that it never slows down the writing. The Weight of Silence is part travelogue, part expose, and gripping reading. The fact that this book shows deep respect for India’s people while not ignoring their faults sets this book apart.”
I was also quoted on the Conscious Discussions blog, from my guest appearance on the Conscious Discussions radio show on July 14. On the blog, Lillian Brummet has posted comments I made about what people can do to make a difference for “invisible” children around the world, from small steps to big. You can also listen to the original radio show on the player below:
Jennie Kermode with Eye For Film just wrote an excellent article about the issues surrounding Slumdog Millionaire – the lessons of the movie, the fate of the actual child actors, and the life portrayed in the film that is the hard reality of millions of other children in India, often unseen.
Jennie contacted me to ask for some information about my experiences and reaction to the film, and has quoted me in the article. She says, “After watching Slumdog Millionaire, many viewers will feel they’ve gained an insight into this difficult life. Perhaps as a consequence, donations to charities working in this area have increased, yet there have also been accusations of exploitation concerning the film’s child stars.
But these are just two children, and whilst western eyes may be wide with horror at the thought of the bright young stars having to face poverty, millions of others are forgotten.
‘Currently 25 million Indian children there live without homes or families of their own,’ says author Shelley Seale. ‘They live in orphanages, slums, railway stations or on the streets. Yes, that’s 25 million – equivalent to the population of the entire state of Texas. They are highly vulnerable to abuse, harassment, HIV/AIDS, and being trafficked into child labor if they’re lucky – brothels if they’re not.’
Seale has spent three years travelling around India to research her book, The Weight Of Silence, which explores the lives of children like these. Stating that Slumdog Millionaire portrayed their situation ‘all too well’, she says ‘like everyone, I loved the magical, feel-good ending. But I also hope desperately that we will not forget that there is no such fairytale ending for millions of Indian children in similar circumstances. For them, such dreams will remain only that.’
So what can be done to help the situation? The makers of Slumdog Millionaire have donated $1m to charities tackling child poverty in India, and the money should go a long way. But by presenting audiences with fairytale solutions, do films like this encourage them to believe that poverty isn’t really so bad, so that even if they donate in the short term they’ll stop worrying about it in the long term? Some critics have suggested that Hollywood exploits poverty to profit from viewers who may be motivated by social conscience or by voyeurism.”
Jennie goes on to ask one of the most uncomfortable questions I have ever encountered: “In an affluent world, is poverty one of the last truly exotic experiences?”
Read the entire article here, and decide for yourself.
And please – don’t forget those millions of children.
For 35 years, the Baikaria community in the Godda district of Jharkhand, India, didn’t know that the shell in their village was a school, because no teacher ever came. But it’s every child’s right to learn.
Despite India’s growing global talent, half its children (60 million) are not in primary school. They’re too poor, or too busy working.
CRY America and Society for Advancement in Tribes, Health, Education, Environment [SATHEE], our project partner in India, believe that child rights is linked to the rights of the community, and hence mobilized the entire Baikaria village to successfully stand up for its rights.
Keep your faith in us and soon every child will be in school and educated.
To see the photo essay of CRY’s educational work in Baikaria click here.
What can you do?
Advocacy, simply put is to ‘amplify voice. At CRY, being a Child Rights advocate means – to amplify the voice of children. Too many millions of India’s children are still denied the simple joys of childhood, love, protection and so often life itself. And for any change on a significant scale, it will require each one of us to start thinking of children, not as objects of sympathy, but as citizens with the same rights that we consider our due. You do not require any great mission or vision to stand up for what you think is the right thing to do, say, feel, or share.
We believe all children irrespective of their age, caste, class, and gender must be born and treated equally. Each of them is entitled to their right to a childhood.